Boston Celtics shooting guard Avery Bradley has gotten off to a hot start as he comes into his own.
The Boston Celtics are a trendy pick by fans and analysts in the Eastern Conference this season. Since Brad Stevens took over as head coach the Celtics have trended in the right direction.
They have seen their wins increase in each season under Stevens, and many people believe that will happen again in 2016-17.
If that is to happen, the Celtics need some of their players to begin taking the next step in their development. To speed up that development, the Celtics signed Al Horford to man the middle.
Horford helps push the needle, but if they are to truly take that next step the Celtics need some of these younger assets to pick their game up.
One of those players is Avery Bradley. The 26-year old Bradley is already regarded as one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA, capable of defending both guard positions.
For the Celtics to challenge for the Atlantic Division title and move up in the Eastern Conference, Bradley would have to take his game to the next level.
It was a challenge that he was up for, saying before the season that his goal was to expand his overall game.
"“That’s my mindset this year — I’m trying to rebound, pass the ball and make plays for others,” Bradley said. “I work on my game every single summer and know I’m trying to put it in the game.”"
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The Celtics are only three games into the 2016-17 season but thus far Bradley has come through on his goal. He has looked like arguably the best player on the court for the Celtics in three games.
The Celtics are 2-1 in those games and Bradley has impacted the game in a multitude of ways. He has been a surprise contributor on the glass, as he currently leads the team in rebounding.
He is averaging 8.7 rebounds per game, including a career-high 11 against the Charlotte Hornets.
That was not the only career-high for Bradley in the game, as he also had a career night from beyond the arc.
Bradley would knock down 8-of-11 from deep en route to 31 points; one shy of his career high. It was an efficient night from the field, as Bradley needed only 19 shots to score 31.
Bradley was left in the game to begin the fourth quarter to play with the second unit and it paid off in a big way. Bradley knocked down three three-pointers in the final quarter and was 5-for-7 overall to help get the Celtics an impressive early season victory.
"“We’ve been starting or playing early in those quarters — the second or fourth — either Isaiah or Avery to try to keep one of our guards in with the second unit,” Stevens said. “I did think he was gassed at about the seven-minute mark. That’s why we took him back out for a couple of minutes.”"
"“Especially in the stretch where they got a little bit of cushion (in the fourth quarter) which ended up being the difference in the game,” Clifford said. “They’re a good team and they played well. You can see why people are saying they’ll be top two or three in the East.”"
Bradley killed the momentum that the Hornets built near the end of the third quarter. A Nicolas Batum jumper on the second to last possession of the third quarter gave the Hornets their first lead of the game.
It wouldn’t grow much more than that, as Bradley got going in the fourth quarter. He helped the Celtics build a 90-79 lead that they were able to ride to the end of the game.
It was a strong performance by Bradley, who is expected to handle more of an offensive load this season. If he can sustain the improved efficiency he has begun the season with he will see his scoring numbers increase.
The Celtics are waiting for Marcus Smart to return from an ankle injury. He will take some minutes away from Bradley, but he will be tough to take off the court. He is becoming a great two-way player and someone the Celtics will continue to rely on as the season goes on.